All you need to do is ask? The exhortation to be creative improves creative performance more for nonexpert than expert Jazz musicians

David S. Rosen*, Youngmoo E. Kim, Daniel Mirman, John Kounios

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current creativity research reveals a fundamental disagreement about the nature of creative thought, specifically, whether it is primarily based on automatic, associative (Type 1) or executive, controlled (Type 2) cognitive processes. We propose that Type 1 and Type 2 processes make differential contributions to creative production depending on domain expertise and situational factors such as task instructions. We tested this hypothesis with jazz pianists who were instructed to improvise to a novel chord sequence and rhythm accompaniment. Afterward, they were asked to perform again under instructions to be especially creative which, via goal activation, is thought to prompt the musicians to engage Type 2 processes. Jazz experts rated all performances. Overall, performances by more experienced pianists were rated as superior. Moreover, creativity instructions resulted in higher ratings. However, there was an interaction between instructions and expertise, revealing that explicit creativity instructions significantly improved improvisation ratings only for the less experienced musicians. We propose that activating or reconfiguring executive Type 2 processes facilitates creativity for less experienced musicians, but does not improve creative performance significantly for more experienced ones because the latter have largely automatized the processes responsible for high-level improvisation or because they have achieved a near-optimal balance between associative Type 1 and executive Type 2 processes. Thus, increasing controlled Type 2 processing is unlikely to help, and may sometimes even diminish, the creativity of experts' performances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-427
Number of pages8
JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • creative processes
  • creativity
  • expertise
  • explicit instructions
  • jazz improvisation


Dive into the research topics of 'All you need to do is ask? The exhortation to be creative improves creative performance more for nonexpert than expert Jazz musicians'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this